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The PhD in Education Program is individualized, interdisciplinary, and experiential. Students may opt to specialize in science education research or incorporate coursework within a self-defined interdisciplinary program of study.

Have questions? Attend an information session or contact the specialization representative, Erin Peters-Burton.

About the Specialization

The Science Education Research Specialization prepares students to conduct research about the learning and teaching of science within different scientific disciplines. Such research involves a deep understanding of the discipline-specific content knowledge as well as the discipline-specific methodologies through which this knowledge is developed.

The Science Education Research Specialization supports the in-depth study of students interested in research in science education. Such a comprehensive and systematic concentration designed around doctoral-level courses supports the science education program's ability to offer more robust and rigorous courses of study at the doctoral level. The major thrust of the science education research specialization is to prepare students for 21st century classrooms, to be collaborative, to produce and enhance critical thinking skills, and to embrace and foster creativity.

What Will You Learn?

The Science Education Research Specialization coursework and applied internships that enable students to learn:

  • Theory and research in learning about science in formal and non-formal settings
  • Foundational knowledge about science teaching and learning at all levels
  • Research methodologies to address a variety of science education topics
  • Specialized knowledge in science education related to your area of interest

What Our Students Are Saying

"I loved how the Science Education Research specialization gave me a solid foundation in the historic and current research in science education while giving me the flexibility to explore my specific research passions. As a graduate research assistant in the program, I got to experience many facets of the research process including data collection, analysis, presenting at research at conferences, and publication. I felt that my experiences in the program prepared me for whichever career path I decided to pursue post-graduation."
~ Stephanie Stehle, 2022 graduate
"The science education research program helped me build my understanding of how high-quality research connects to effective practices within the science classroom. The courses offered provided me with many options to explore my own area of inquiry; I was able to make many applications to my role as an educator. I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to engage with science education research within the program at George Mason."
~ Steph N. Dean, 2022 graduate

Our Graduates

Christie Byers, PhD 2022 

  • Dissertation Title: Wonder Matters for Education: Movements in Theory, Method, and Practice 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Andrew Gilbert 
  • Employment on Graduation: Assistant Professor at George Mason University 

Steph N. Dean, PhD 2022 

  • Dissertation Title: A Phenomenological Study of the Lived Experiences of Teachers Who Implement Outdoor/Environmental Education Within a K-12 Setting 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Andrew Gilbert 
  • Employment on Graduation: Assistant Professor, Clemson University 

Talisa Jackson, PhD 2022 

  • Dissertation Title: Revealing Hidden Figures: Critical Analysis of Girls and Women of Color in STEM Picture Storybooks?? 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Erin Peters-Burton 
  • Employment on Graduation: Learning Program Manager, DEI, Capital One 

Stephanie Stehle, PhD 2022 

  • Dissertation Title: "Does that make Sense?": A Mixed-Methods Study Investigating High School Physics Students' use of Metacognition while Solving Physics Problems 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Erin Peters-Burton 
  • Employment on Graduation: Strategy, Research, & Curriculum Specialist; M-Technical Solutions 

Whitney Keaton, PhD 2018 

  • Dissertation Title: Examining the Academic and Extracurricular Experiences and Behaviors of High School Students in Online STEM Courses 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Andrew Gilbert 
  • Employment on Graduation: Lead Science Teacher & Department Chair, George Washington University Online High School; Adjunct Professor, George Mason University 

Linda Peterson, PhD 2018 

  • Dissertation Title: Capturing Middle School Science Teachers' Perceptions, Learning, and Instructional Enactments in a Professional Development Designed to Facilitate Students' Collaborative Discourse 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Erin Peters-Burton 
  • Employment on Graduation: Curriculum Specialist, Fairfax County Public Schools 


Each student in the PhD in Education Program is mentored by faculty in the development of their own personalized program of study that fosters their ability to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of significant theories, developments, and practices in one's chosen area of study
  • Understand, utilize, and interpret basic principles, ethical practice, and methodologies of educational research design and data analysis
  • Effectively communicate both orally and in writing to a variety of professional audiences

Supported professional experiences and internships beyond required coursework support mastery of these competencies, including:

  • Attending and/or presenting your scholarly work at professional conferences to researchers, policymakers, and practitioners
  • University teaching and/or co-teaching experiences in professional areas of expertise
  • Supervising pre-service teachers
  • Writing, editing, and reviewing for scholarly journals
  • Research apprenticeships and assistantships
  • Supported independent research in an area of professional interest
  • Internships unique to the individual’s area of study
  • Building a professional portfolio

The PhD in Education is awarded after the successful completion of:

  • Coursework
  • A comprehensive portfolio assessment
  • A written dissertation
  • An oral dissertation defense

Why This Program?

Are you ready to expand your impact in the field of education?

A PhD in Education from GMU can help you reach that goal! Our accomplished faculty can help you leverage your existing expertise in the field of education and deepen your toolkit of professional knowledge and skills that will take your career to the next level of influence. 
Our graduates have attained consequential professional positions such as:

  • Academic faculty at post-secondary institutions
  • Leadership and research positions in federal and state government, post-secondary institutions, research organizations, and non-government agencies
  • Analysts and consultants with private companies, political advocacy groups, education or research think tanks, and professional associations
  • School, district, and statewide leadership positions in major preK-12 school districts, technical assistance centers, and other informal educational agencies
  • Curriculum and instructional materials developers

Our flexible student-centered program structure allows each student to design a personalized, interdisciplinary program of study that helps them to become outstanding educational researchers, practitioners, and leaders in their respective fields. Our faculty have strengths in:

Theoretical & Applied Research

  • Choose from a wide range of advanced quantitative and qualitative research methods coursework options
  • Have the opportunity to gain research experience on projects funded by federal agencies, including the Institute for Education Sciences and the National Science Foundation 

Advanced Teacher Preparation

  • Choose from a wide range of teaching and teacher preparation coursework and internship options, including opportunities to co-teach university courses with faculty and supervise teacher internships
  • Receive advanced training in online teaching and learning

Education Leadership & Policy

  • Choose from a wide range of coursework and internship opportunities in leadership and policy fields, both national and international
  • Have unique opportunities for experiential learning due to proximity to Washington DC and several of the largest school systems in the country

Movement & Sport Sciences

  • Choose an intensive Kinesiology program with opportunities for experiential learning in state-of-the-art movement labs.
  • Or, create a custom program of study in fields related to movement and sport sciences, including teaching in physical education and sport management

How Can I Learn More?

Visit our Frequently Asked Questions and Answer Page

Frequently Asked Questions

Attend an Information Session

The PhD in Education Program periodically conducts information sessions to acquaint applicants with our program and the admissions process. Information sessions include an overview of the PhD in Education Program followed by breakout sessions with faculty who can answer questions about professional specialization areas. Scheduled sessions are listed at the top of this page.